Kirk Simon had a problem for Neal Potter.
He and some others who use wheelchairs travel to and from Montgomery College under a they travel to and from the Rockville campus under a special county transportation program for people with disabilities. Come January, though, that service will be cut back, and Simon and the others will have no way of getting to class.
"If I can't get a ride, I can't get to class; if I can't get to class, I can't get a job; if I can't get a job, I am simply another liability for this county," Simon, 28, told Montgomery's soon-to-be executive at a recent forum on budget needs.
Even though he won't be sworn in until Dec. 3, Potter already is being confronted with the demands of office.
Recent public hearings on how the county should spend its money next year provided a backdrop for some of the dilemmas facing Potter and the nine members of the new County Council.
Users of libraries argued for more money for books and better facilities. Advocates for the homeless and the mentally ill pointed to growing needs. People who work with crime victims warned that cuts could hurt their programs.
Speakers also argued for schools, police and construction of new roads.
Potter, who presided over the two nights of hearings, said only, "We'll have to look at what we can do."
He promised to take a special look at the plight of the Montgomery College students but noted that no one has yet come up with suggestions on where the county, facing a revenue shortfall that could reach $60 million, will find the money.
The first facet of next year's spending plan, the capital improvements budget, is due less than a month after Potter is sworn in. Those fiscal concerns come at a time when he also must set up the framework of his administration.
Unlike his predecessors in office, Potter has had less time to arrange for the transition.
After his upset of incumbent Sidney Kramer in the September Democratic primary, Potter made some initial steps to set up an administration. He appointed a transition committee and began meeting with those who had not supported him. But those efforts came to a screeching halt when Kramer reentered the race with a write-in bid and Potter had to spend all his time and energy in a campaign against two opponents.
Since his decisive victory Nov. 6 in the general election, Potter has moved quickly. He appointed another, larger transition team that includes members of the community who supported his candidacy, such as the civic movement and environmental groups. Also included were business representatives and people who had been close to Kramer, moves aimed at bridging his differences with those groups.
"Neal wants to make it clear that he is open to ideas and to people," said Norman Christeller, a longtime confidant who is on the transition committee.
The transition in governments from Kramer to Potter is more strained than those in the past. This is the first time an incumbent seeking reelection must turn over power to the person who defeated him. And the bitterness of the primary battle and write-in effort adds another strain.
"It's not a friendly changeover," said one party activist. However, by all accounts no major difficulties have emerged. It is unlike the District of Columbia, where Mayor-Elect Sharon Pratt Dixon has sought to curtail the powers of the outgoing mayor while at the same time refusing to get involved in decisions on next year's budget.
Kramer has instructed county budget officials to work closely with Potter, and it was at Kramer's suggestion that Potter presided over the recent budget forums.
"A transition on a county level is not that disruptive," said Christeller, noting that virtually all county workers are merit employees. There are only 28 employees, all department heads and confidential aides, who are subject to change by a new executive.
So far, Potter has announced three appointments. William Hussmann, a development official and former county official, was named chief administrative officer, and Potter said his special assistants would include Kelly Pelz, his longtime aide, and Silver Spring activist Gene Lynch.
Robert McGarry, the county transportation director who has policy differences with Potter, is retiring on Tuesday, two weeks to the day after Potter's election. Sources close to Potter acknowledge that changes are likely for county attorney and Montgomery's lobbyist in Annapolis.
Potter has asked some department heads to stay, including Housing and Community Development Director Richard Ferrara, Family Resources Director Charles Short and Police Chief Donald E. Brooks.
"He has no plans for a grand sweep," Lynch said.